By April Wilkerson
Aug. 31, 2010
OKLAHOMA CITY – Kent Meyers and Don Nicholson were no strangers to trying big cases. But 13 years ago, the attorneys felt a tug to do something more.
The result is an effort that’s still going strong – Oklahoma Lawyers for Children. Since the organization began, hundreds of Oklahoma lawyers have provided pro bono legal assistance to some 21,000 abused and neglected children in Oklahoma County.
Nicholson said the children needed a voice, and the organization’s volunteers have been there to help them speak.
“A lot of times you try a big case between corporation A and corporation B, and all they’re fighting about is money,” said Meyers, a director at Crowe & Dunlevy. “They both care, but it’s not the end of the world. But it can be the end of the world in children’s cases. If you take a wrong turn and put the child in a bad situation, it can be the end of that child’s world. So many of these children have been horribly scarred emotionally by what has happened, and we have a chance to make life a little better for a child. That’s very comforting.”
Meyers and Nicholson started Oklahoma Lawyers for Children after touring several facilities for abused and neglected youths. At the last stop on the tour, they simply sat down and hashed out a plan for the organization before they left.
Today, Oklahoma Lawyers for Children has 489 volunteer lawyers in Oklahoma County representing 500 children at any given time. The lawyers assist the public defender’s office with cases, or take the cases on themselves, Meyers said. Because the law related to abused and neglected children is unique, the organization holds two free daylong continuing legal education programs annually.
The organization also offers plenty of work for nonlawyers – volunteers visit shelters every day of the year to talk to the children and get information on those who arrived the previous day.
Meyers said the lawyers can’t help but get attached to the children as they help them navigate the legal system. Sometimes, if the circumstances are right, the children are reunited with their parents. Other times, parental rights are terminated and the child may eventually be adopted. Sometimes the children can’t be adopted and age out of the foster care system.
“Not every case has a happy ending,” Meyers said.
Nicholson said Oklahoma Lawyers for Children is the best pro bono work he could imagine doing.
“No lawyer ever had a totally innocent client, but these kids are,” Nicholson said. “I can’t imagine anything a lawyer could do by way of pro bono work where his time would be so meaningful and could affect such an important change.”
Nicholson, Meyers and the late Buddy Faye Foster were recently honored for their work with Oklahoma Lawyers for Children. The newly constructed court waiting area at the Oklahoma County Juvenile Justice Center has been named the “Meyers, Nicholson and Foster Lobby.” It was funded by the Oklahoma Bar Foundation.
Posted on Tue, August 31, 2010
by Crowe & Dunlevy filed under